Passes Record State Aid Increase for City Schools
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
On March 21, the Assembly passed its budget
resolution, which includes, for the first time, State school aid
to New York City at a level that meets or exceeds the city’s proportion
of enrolled students statewide. Public school enrollment in the
City represents 37.4 percent of statewide public school enrollment,
and under the Assembly’s proposed budget, New York City would
get over 38 percent of the State’s overall school aid. I am proud
to be leading the fight for these historic increases for our local
Over two years, our proposed education budget
would provide New York City public schools with a $670 million
increase the first year and a total $1.4 billion increase over
two years. New York State trails the nation in state support for
elementary education, but the Governor’s policies have ignored
the need to make a significant investment in our children’s education—and
in their future success. His policies have neglected many high-needs
districts—none more than New York City—by artificially “capping”
formula-driven aid, thereby depriving our city schools of hundreds
of millions of dollars each year. Our budget (finally!) eliminates
these caps and “keeps the promise” to our kids.
Originally, Governor Pataki agreed to a
four-year phase-in of the LADDER program, but he has repeatedly
tried to back away from this commitment. This year is no different,
with the Governor’s proposal cutting $660 million from LADDER.
This program, a 1997 initiative of mine and Speaker Silver’s,
has been helping our schools meet higher standards, reduce class
size, update computer technology, recruit and train highly-skilled
teachers and ensure that every child has access to pre-kindergarten
Additionally, we make important changes
that benefit New York City, including reforming the school aid
formulas so that regional costs are factored in. This is so important
to us in the City, where labor, services and all costs are dramatically
higher than in most of the state. Similarly, our budget is sensitive
to poverty indicators, because children whose families are poor
generally have extra needs that the school system must meet, and
the funding formulas must be responsive to this.
And our initiative for recruiting and retaining
teachers is of paramount importance, because we are facing a huge
teacher shortage at the same time academic standards and high-stakes
testing are being implemented. For our kids to succeed they must
have quality teachers.
Finally, to ensure that increases in State
school aid to New York City actually reach the classrooms, the
Assembly would require a “maintenance of effort” provision, to
preclude the Mayor—any Mayor—from reducing the City’s own appropriation
for public schools as the State’s share of education costs rises.
As we have done since I have been chair
of the Education Committee, the Assembly will fight strenuously
and with vigor for fair and adequate resources for city students
in the eventual budget negotiations between it, the Senate and
the Governor. Others speak about reform; the Assembly is taking
action. We must give our children fair and adequate resources
Assemblyman Sanders is Chairman, NYS
Assembly Education Committee.
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